Avon by Vilaska Nguyen

neighborhood

Mai stopped on the front porch and clutched the bag of Avon samples in her sweaty palm. The temperature was below zero. Warm particles of carbon dioxide clashed violently with the Minneapolis winter. Hello, I am Jinny. That wasn’t right. My name is Jay-nee. Hello. Hello, my name is Jenny. She tried to conjure the words of advice her church sponsor Mrs. Dillard had given. Stare at the eyes. Smile. Speak loud. Smile. They’ll like the name Jenny.

Nerves made remembering things difficult. All the things she didn’t want to remember seemed to be waiting behind the door. Losing her baby at the refugee camp on Wake Island. She straightened her second-hand coat and inhaled the cold, feeling needle pricks at the bottom of her lungs. Can I show you something for your pretty? This is Avon. She already made a mistake before she even knocked. The wooden steps creaked beneath Mai’s shifting feet. Inside the home, a hallway light flickered then turned on. Mai walked through her impulse to retreat and confronted the front door.

She removed her hood and struck the brass door knock against its base. She wondered if the clicks were loud enough for the occupants to hear. Smile. Stand straight. She touched the belly of her jacket. My name is Jenny. The fuchsia flash is most wanted. Red lipstick for one dollar and thirty-five cents. It was too expensive for her, but if she had a daughter, she would only buy fuchsia flash.

Mai clicked the door twice more. She waited. One click, more waiting. The hallway light turned off and Jenny turned towards the street and wondered when anyone would buy what she had to offer.

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